Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus

Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus

Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus

Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus

Excerpt

The evolution of the Byzantine Empire, which as its inhabitants knew was really the Roman Empire Christianized, is delineated by a series of outstanding historians. The age of the Comneni and Angeli, 1081-1204, received the attention of three contemporaries whose works surveyed extended periods of time. Long after the death of Alexius I Comnenus (1081-1118), his daughter Anna wrote a biographical epic, fittingly titled The Alexiad, with a strong panegyric tone. While it focuses on her father's military activities, its broad canvas touches on myriad aspects of Byzantine life and thought. John Kinnamos took up the task where Anna left off. He proposed to write the history of the reigns of John II (1118-43) and Manuel I (1143-80), but the surviving text breaks off during the year 1176. Kinnamos' work also eulogizes the emperors. Finally, Nicetas Choniates likewise began his narrative with the accession of John II, and, adding to his text from time to time, carried his history through the western conquest of Constantinople in 1204 and into the succeeding events, breaking off in 1206. His work is almost uniformly derogatory of the emperors under whom he lived; he sought to allocate the blame for Byzantium's downfall in 1204. As a historian, he is a major figure; embittered and scarred by the tragedy of his times, he wrote with an acid pen, not unworthy of Thucydides. His lengthy work, which deserves to be better known, is available in a German translation.

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